If you prep, you understand the value of storing foods that offer nutritional value, longevity, and versatility. With an understanding of their limitations, some creativity, and some meal planning, dry soup mixes can add all three to your food storage and meal planning strategies. Plus they’re easy to make in just about any cooking scenario using only shelf-stable foods to customize them.
What are some brands of dry soup?
There are a lot of brands of dry soup mix out there. Since everyone’s tastebuds are different, don’t stock up on a mix unless you’ve tried it and like it. (Please, don’t make that mistake for any food you store. See Myth #3 here.) And let me know in the comments what brands and varieties you and your family enjoy.
Bear Creek Soup
These are all the rage in prepper circles at least. In fact, I was hard-pressed to find prepper sites that talked about any other brand of dry soup mix. Some fellow Survival Mom readers recommend them also. If you can’t find them in your local grocery store, Amazon carries this variety pack.
Bob’s Red Mill
Bob’s Red Mill Soup Mixes receive consistently good reviews on their website. Plus, they offer gluten-free and vegan options. I’m a big fan of their products (My son and I toured their facility once as a homeschool field trip), yet somehow I’d never tried their soup mixes. I rectified that when I wrote this. Later in this article, I’ll share my thoughts about the mix I tried as well as another brand. Again, these soup mixes can be found on Amazon.
The Survival Mom did a review of food storage companies she recommends and why and Augason Farms didn’t do well. Their soup mixes, in particular, she thought needed some hefty help. These only come in #10 cans, although certain varieties come in pouches inside the can. If you wanted to try these, consider splitting with another family or two who would also like to test them. That keeps the cost down for everyone, especially if you decide you don’t like it.
Are they nutritious enough for emergency food storage?
Most of these soups are pretty low in calories per serving. That’s a significant limitation. While it may be fine for the occasional lunch on an average day, in an emergency situation that isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to have to beef up the calorie content. This is simple and easy to do with a bit of planning. Experiment with additions to the mixes to provide variety AND to increase the calories and nutrients. Then be sure to store those additional items as well.
The bean soup versions typically did well in protein, which is easily increased by adding your own meat, and fiber is decent. Unless it’s a cream soup, fats are a big fat zero or close to zero, and since fat is flavor, it makes sense that the seasoning packets are loaded with salt. Augason Farms has an eye-popping amount of sodium in their chicken noodle soup mix.
Therefore, you can increase their nutritional content by adding ingredients, but if seasonings are pre-mixed in the package, you can’t remove something to make the soup healthier. So let’s talk about ingredients now.
What kinds of ingredients do they use?
Oof. What do I say here except read the labels! Seriously, depending on what you need—gluten-free, allergen-free, vegan, low sodium, non-GMO, pareve, etc.—there’s probably a dry soup mix out there to match.
You could easily get a soup mix that is just a bean mix and then add whatever seasonings, veggies, and proteins you want; these are almost endlessly customizable. Others, like cream soups, incorporate a lot of other ingredients into the pre-packaged mix, so more discernment is required. As mentioned earlier sodium content can be high.
Some brands, like Bob’s Red Mill, have a reputation for high-quality products. Others may be more hit and miss.
Do due diligence just as you would with any other food product you try. If you have a specific requirement, read the labels and research to ensure it meets them.
What is the shelf life of dry soup mixes?
That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? If you want to add soup mixes to your prepper food storage, shelf life is important.
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule. As with any other item in your food storage, there are many variables at play. Of course, there are the 5 enemies of food storage. Even one of those falling outside of optimum can negatively impact a food’s longevity to varying degrees.
But the product itself or its ingredients, if there are multiple, also play a part. For example, if the dry soup mix contains an oil, that oil can go rancid. So, if you open a mix and it smells off, tastes off, or looks off, discard it. Or if it’s moldy, of course. Yuck. But that’s not a lot of help if you’re wanting to use them before they go bad and need a rotation schedule.
The simpler the mix, the longer its shelf life — dried veggies, some seasonings, and freeze-dried meat or chicken. Those ingredients naturally have a longer shelf life.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you really like soup! So do I. My recommendation is to stock up on the brands and varieties you like best, make note of their “best by” dates, and plan to use the soup mix within a year or so of that date. Store them in small bins categorized by similar “best by” dates to help you know which mixes to start using first.
How to make sense of manufacturer dates on packaging
Commercially packaged dry soup mixes are usually marked with one of three dates: Best By, Best If Used By, or Best When Used By. Those all say and mean the same thing, which is not necessarily, by the way, when it’s no longer safe to eat. In other words, they’re not expiration dates. Those dates merely indicate the manufacturer’s estimate of quality. Before that date, best product quality. After that date, product quality—its flavor and nutritional content—declines. The USDA has a pretty thorough explanation about food product dating if you’d like to better understand it.
Generally speaking, the consensus seems to be that a properly stored dry soup mix stays at peak quality for approximately 18-24 months. The clock starts from packaging, though, not from when you purchase it. Keep that in mind.
Some examples of manufacturer dates
Per their website, Bob’s Red Mill Vegetable Soup Mix, for example, has a 24-month shelf life. However, they also state that shelf life can potentially be extended by about six months from the “best by” date printed on the package if the mix is frozen or stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Both #10 cans of Augason Farms Cheddar Broccoli and Cheesy Potato Soups state the unopened contents are good for up to 10 years based on storage conditions. Few of us are able to consistently keep our food storage in ideal conditions long-term so don’t ignore the “up to” part of that shelf life.
Basically, use the manufacturer dates on the package, your senses, and your common sense to decide if a mix is bad. And different brands and varieties within brands are going to differ, so keeping track of the ones you like can give you some experiential data to use for planning a rotation schedule. You could also buy an extra of the varieties you like and leave them to sit for a pre-determined time and then test them.
How to store dry soup mixes for longest shelf-life
One of the downsides of stocking up on dry soup mixes is in their packaging — plastic bags that aren’t designed to protect the food inside for more than just a handful of months, if that.
If the packaging is transparent, it allows in light, which deteriorates food over time, and all the packaging that I’ve seen doesn’t exclude oxygen, another problem for long-term storage.
In addition, microscopic insect eggs can get a free ride into the packaging right along with the soup ingredients! Over time, these eggs do what comes naturally — they hatch — and you end up with tiny bugs!
Other insects and rodents can chew their way through the plastic packaging, giving you one more headache!
If you’re serious about stocking up on dry soup mixes, then you’ll also need to get serious about how you go about storing them.
My best recommendation is this: Empty the soup mixes into canning jars and add an oxygen absorber. Then, place the canning jars in the freezer for at least a week to kill any insect eggs. The glass jars are rodent-proof.
You’ll only need to store the jars in a dark, cool location to provide the optimal storage environment. Be sure to label the jars with the soup flavor and brand name. Cut out the soup ingredient list and cooking instructions and tape that to the outside of the jar.
Another possibility if the soup mix comes in a heavy-duty bag (Bear Creek brand is one example), is to place those bags in the freezer for at least a week. The cold will kill off the insect eggs, giving you one less worry when it comes to long-term storage.
One last method is to vacuum seal the bags after freezing.
Your primary concerns are to protect the soup mixes from light, heat, humidity, pests, and oxygen.
Customizing dry soup mixes
In my opinion, most dry soup mixes seem to function better as a base, rather than as a stand-alone meal, although they can work for that as well. It’s just based on personal preference. Here are some ways to change things up a bit:
- Use broth instead of water. Vegetable, chicken, beef or mix them.
- Vary the spices and seasonings.
- For added creaminess, mash some of the soup or puree briefly.
- Add additional vegetables. Fresh, frozen (no need to thaw!), canned. If using freeze-dried, you’ll need to add more water to allow for the rehydrating process.
- Add pasta or grain. Again, you may need to adjust the liquid. Adding pasta or rice is an easy and inexpensive way to make a meal stretch.
- Add/vary the protein.
- Make them the consistency of stew and use as a topping. Putting them over rice, pasta, toasted bread, baked/mashed potatoes, etc, are also great ways to stretch a meal.
- Add toppings. Bacon, green onions, oyster crackers, grated cheese, tortilla strips, croutons, sour cream/greek yogurt, you name it.
- Check the package and the manufacturer’s website for recipe ideas. They want you to purchase more of their product so they provide suggestions in hopes of persuading you to do so.
Some specific suggestions to get you started
These suggestions for customizing dry soup mixes aren’t based on a specific brand, just on a type of soup. Also, you could use fresh, frozen, canned, or dehydrated forms. These are just a few ideas to get you thinking how to customize dry soup mixes for improved flavor and increased calories and nutrients.
- add black-eyed peas and Mexican-style tomatoes
- stir in media crema (table cream) and refried beans
- rice and black beans
- canned chicken
- top it with tortilla chips
- mix in additional sliced or diced potatoes and corn
- media crema and canned ham
- add freeze-dried green chili peppers or canned green chiles
Vegetable or Vegetable Beef Soup
- canned roast beef and mixed vegetables
- media crema, canned roast beef, and egg noodles
- instant mashed potatoes
- a can of tomatoes
- Italian-style tomatoes, kidney beans, and great northern beans
- macaroni and parmesan cheese (shredded freeze-dried Parmesan is the freshest tasting)
- kidney beans and Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
- serve it over macaroni and cheese
- top it with grated cheddar cheese
- serve it over cooked rice
That’s a fair amount of ways to help avoid food fatigue. But now let’s see how a couple of them taste.
The results of test driving some dry soup mixes
I experimented with two different brands of soup mixes. (I didn’t choose Bear Creek because there are a lot of reviews found on the internet for them, particularly for the Cheddar Broccoli soup mix.) Here are my results:
Ok, right off the bat, I noticed that the packaging date is included under the best buy date. And not in some hard-to-decipher code, either. Therefore I know that this bag was packaged seven weeks ago, and the best buy date is still about two years out. Freshness, taste, and nutritional quality should be excellent.
Do you think this should be called a soup starter rather than a mix? I’m unsure. It’s just peas, grains, and vegetable pasta. No seasonings were added so that makes it a good option for low-sodium diets, or if you just want control over the seasonings. But that also means the flavor is all up to you. I’m not exactly a fearless cook so I found this a bit intimidating. However, I read a few reviews stating they liked the mix as is, or just made with broth and a little onion. I like simple, so that’s the route I went.
I combined one cup soup mix with a four-cup combo of garlic and vegetable broth, 1 tsp. salt, and tossed in 1-1/2 teaspoons dried onion. The result? This produced a flavorful soup with some tooth that actually felt hearty.
I was actually surprised enough I decided to put it through a more rigorous test; I made a second batch using only the basic instructions provided on the package: water and salt. The result? Color me quite surprised. I thought it was good. If all I had was water and salt, I could definitely eat this.
Because it didn’t contain carrots, celery, or anything else like that, neither version I made seemed like what I think of as vegetable soup. However, if you regularly cook with dehydrated or freeze-dried ingredients to throw in, this is a good base. On the other hand, if you keep the particular peas, grains, and pasta used in this package on hand, you could simply assemble your own meals-in-a jar.
I grabbed three different varieties of Manischewitz brand soup mix on my first grocery shopping trip during COVID-19 lockdowns back in March of 2020. It was an impulse purchase; They were less than one dollar each.
I chose to make the Minestrone version because the best buy date was the same month as I was writing this article. This brand includes seasoning but not separately so I didn’t have the option to use less. Later on, I read an Amazon comment about using a strainer to separate the seasoning. Apparently, this is a new development as older packages (and the other two I bought) include the seasoning in a cello packet.
Instead of water, I again combined garlic and vegetable broth. After simmering 45 minutes, I added a 12.5oz can of chicken, shredded, and let it heat through. I was surprised to find that it had a good flavor, although it was right at the border of being too salty for my taste. In addition to the sodium in the soup mix, there was salt in the broth and in the canned chicken. I debated about adding one cup of water but my husband thought the soup was delicious as is and didn’t want me to change it. That’s a perfect example of taste preferences differing, right there.
This was a good base but definitely needs beefing up to make it a substantial meal. The kidney beans were only noticeable because of their color and the rest of the beans seemed to disappear.
Since the seasoning is now mixed in with the other contents, this might not be a good option for low-sodium needs. Were I to make this again, I would experiment with a water/broth combo to find a better threshold. Not using canned chicken is another option.
Can I make my own dry soup mixes?
You could, of course, make your own versions of these. Either keep the beans, pasta, and individual seasonings needed, or make up your own mixes and store them in glass jars or ziplock bags. This could be more economical in the long run. If you’re interested in purchasing dehydrated or freeze-dried foods for this purpose, the company Survival Mom personally uses and recommends without reservation is Thrive Life.
When it comes to some of the other varieties, like the creamy soups, for instance, a bag you just dump that at a minimum only needs water, is a nice timesaver.
If you’d like to make your own seasonings to include in the soup mixes, this article has DIY recipes.
Do dry soup mixes make sense to add to your food storage?
Soups can be a comforting and filling option for the average meal and especially in an emergency; the warmth and the aroma can boost spirits.
Right now where I’m at in my prepping journey, I would purchase pre-packaged soup mixes that include seasonings and also the ingredients to change them up or increase protein levels. This makes the most sense for me.
That might not make the most sense for you, though. You might want to just keep individual ingredients on hand, or whip up some of your own mixes to store. Or you may like to keep something unseasoned as a quick base for your recipes. You should do what works best for you.
Regardless of what you choose, it makes sense to have some way to make soup in your preps.